This is a Malay version of the sour fish soup/stew found all over mainland Southeast Asia, sometimes rather misleadingly called “Gulai Tumis”. Compare it with the Sumatran Sour Fish Stew, the Thai or Lao Sour Fish Curry or the southern Thai yellow Sour Fish Soup, the Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup and Cambodian Sour Chicken Soup. The dish is also a popular one in Nyonya cooking.


2 tablespoons oil

A few okra or green beans, cut into bite-sized lengths

2 pieces dried tamarind or ½ cup (125 ml) tamarind water

2-3 cups (500-700 ml) water

Salt to tasteimage

1 lb (500 g) fish fillets (sea perch, cod, freshwater trout, pike) or small whole fish, cleaned

Spice Paste

12 medium-size dried chilies, soaked in warm water until soft, then squeezed dry

2 stalks lemongrass, finely sliced

1½-in (4-cm) piece galangal, peeled and coarsely chopped

1-in (2½ cm) piece turmeric root, peeled and coarsely chopped or 1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon shrimp paste (belacan)

3 cloves garlic

10 shallots, sliced

Grind the Spice Paste ingredients to a fire paste. Heat the oil in a wok or a sauce pan and fry the Spice Paste until it is fragrant and no longer sticks to the pan. Add the okra or green beans and stir-fry for a few minutes until they are coated with the spices. Add the tamarind water (if using) and mix well. Add the water, salt to taste and tamarind slices (if using). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetable is nearly cooked. Add the fish and simmer gently until cooked

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